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Marketing to Pirates

Jonathan Watts on Piracy and China:

I guess about 70% of the stuff we have is pirated,” said a sales assistant. “The police come from time to time and we close until they’ve gone. But they come back in private and ask us to give them free DVDs. Then we open again.”

“Censorship isn’t all bad because it stimulates demand and promotes the development of the piracy business,” said one radical blogger, Muzimei, whose name was once among the list of banned words on the internet, despite being used commercially to sell everything from underwear to cockroach killers. “Forbidden things are always attractive. The politicians at the top introduce policies. The people at the bottom find a way around them.”

Some 95%of all DVDs sold in China are pirated, costing the film industry $280m (£160m), according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Pirate DVDs typically sell for less than £1 and you can try them out in the shop before you buy them. Most go on sale within days of general release in America.

The goal of content creators should be to win fans, not customers. But Big Media is focused on customers and profits. At some point it will be clear that marketing dollars to promote a mediocre novel or movie or album just won’t bring the profits they used to. One implication of the Long Tail phenomenon is that “thinking small” makes sense for creating content..if only people would abandon Big Media in favor of independent media.  Piracy means that you have captured attention without capturing loyalty or financial endorsement. If Britney Spears CD’s only cost a dollar, would you still buy them? Most would not.

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